Catholics in Media Awards held March 29 at Beverly Hills Hotel

Robin Riker (The Bold and the Beautiful), Kevin Dobson One Life to Live), Greg Walker (exec producer Without a Trace), Sister Peggy McEntee, SC (technical advisor for DOUBT), Megan Blake (Animal Attractions TV), Marianne Muellerleile (Life with Bonnie, Passions), Mark Derwin (The Secret Life of the American Teenager; One Life to Live, 24)

Robin Riker (The Bold and the Beautiful), Kevin Dobson One Life to Live), Greg Walker (exec producer Without a Trace), Sister Peggy McEntee, SC (technical advisor for DOUBT), Megan Blake (Animal Attractions TV), Marianne Muellerleile (Life with Bonnie, Passions), Mark Derwin (The Secret Life of the American Teenager; One Life to Live, 24)

About 350 people atteneded CIMA’s 16th annual awards event at the Beverly Hills Hotel last Sunday.

Winners:

Without a Trace – Television (Greg Walker and Jan Nash accepting)

Doubt – Film (Sister Peggy McEntee, SC accepting)

Lifetime Achievement – Louis Gossett, Jr.

I will post the link to the article that will appear in The Tidings next week. Meanwhile, if you scroll down on this blog you can check out the interviews I did with the winners and Mark Derwin, our very funny Master of Ceremonies.

Here are some visual highlights of the day taken with my iPhone. My niece is supposed to send me better photos later today.

Tom Norris, Marianne Muellerleile, and actress Rusty Schwimmer enjoy Mark Derwin's comedic commentary

Tom Norris, Marianne Muellerleile, and actress Rusty Schwimmer enjoy Mark Derwin's comedic commentary

Mark Derwin and Sr Rose

Mark Derwin and Sr Rose

 

Greg Walker, executive producer for "Without a Trace"; Jan Nash at far left

Greg Walker, executive producer for "Without a Trace"; Jan Nash at far left

Sister Peggy McEntee tells the audience that when writer/director John Patrick Shanley was 6 years old and she was 21, they were in 1st grade together!

Sister Peggy McEntee tells the audience that when writer/director John Patrick Shanley was 6 years old and she was 21, they were in 1st grade together! Sr. Peggy was then known as Sr. Mary James and the Amy Adams character in the play and film was based on her. Shanley also dedicated the film "Doubt" to Sr. Peggy who at 72 years of age teaches five religion classes daily at Notre Dame High School in New York.

Lou Gossett, Jr. accepts the CIMA Award from Viveca A. Fox

Lou Gossett, Jr. accepts the CIMA Award from Viveca A. Fox

Mark Derwin, MC, Marilyn Gill, President of CIMA, Lous Gossett, Jr. and Viveca A. Fox

Mark Derwin, MC, Marilyn Gill, President of CIMA, Lous Gossett, Jr. and Viveca A. Fox

Sister Tracey, FSP with one of the fabulous flower arrangements and Mark Derwin

Sister Tracey, FSP with one of the fabulous flower arrangements and Mark Derwin

Lou Gossett, Jr., Fr. Tony Scannell, OFMCap, CIMA Chaplain and celebrant of the Mass, and Viveca A. Fox

Lou Gossett, Jr., Fr. Tony Scannell, OFMCap, CIMA Chaplain and celebrant of the Mass, and Viveca A. Fox

Brian Oppenheimer, CIMA, chats with Sr. Peggy McEntee, SC before the event begins

Brian Oppenheimer, CIMA, chats with Sr. Peggy McEntee, SC before the event begins

We gave Sr. Peggy's the one day nuns' tour of Hollywood that included a visit to Our Lady of the Angels Cathedral. Here Sr Peggy stands in front of the tapestry of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, foundress of her congregations, the Sisters of Charity of New York (founded 200 years ago this year)

We gave Sr. Peggy's the one day nuns' tour of Hollywood that included a visit to Our Lady of the Angels Cathedral. Here Sr Peggy stands in front of the tapestry of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, foundress of her congregation, the Sisters of Charity of New York (founded 200 years ago this year)

Sister Hosea, Sister Peggy and me at Gregory Peck's grave in the mausoleum under the Cathedral

Sister Hosea, Sister Peggy and me at Gregory Peck's grave in the mausoleum under the Cathedral

Of course our tour took us to lunch at the real SoCal experience: In & Out Burger!

Of course our tour took us to lunch at the real SoCal experience: In & Out Burger!

Sr. Tracey, Sr. Peggy, and Pat Boren, co-producer of the CIMA event at dinner at The Terrace in Venice Beach the evening before

Sr. Tracey, Sr. Peggy, and Pat Boren, co-producer of the CIMA event at dinner at The Terrace in Venice Beach the evening before

Mark Derwin, my niece Jamie Lynn Weatherfield, and Robin Riker at the CIMA event

Mark Derwin, my niece Jamie Lynn Weatherfield, and Robin Riker at the CIMA event

Another view of the winners and presenters

Another view of the winners and presenters

Catholics in Media to Award “Doubt” “Without a Trace” & Lou Gossett, Jr.

 

 

The CIMA Award

The CIMA Award

 

Catholics in Media Associates (CIMA)

16th  Awards Mass & Brunch honors

Louis Gossett, Jr., “Doubt” and

CBS / Warner Television’s “Without A Trace”

 

Mark Derwin (“Secret Life of an American Teenager”)

to serve as MC as venue moves to the Beverly Hills Hotel

 

   Catholics in Media Associates’ (CIMA) Sixteenth Mass and Awards Brunch on Sunday, March 29, 2009 will honor Louis Gossett, Jr. for Lifetime Achievement, the feature film “Doubt“ and the CBS / Warner Bros Television / Jerry Bruckheimer Productions television series “Without A Trace.”  The celebration, which will be held for the very first time in the Crystal Ballroom of the Beverly Hills Hotel, Beverly Hills, CA, will begin with a Mass at 10 AM with a brunch and awards ceremony to follow, announced television producer and CIMA President Marilyn Gill.  Mark Derwin, costar of ABC Family’s “Secret Life of an American Teenager,” will serve as Master of Ceremonies.  

        The CIMA Awards were created in 1992 by former DGA President Jack Shea and other prominent Catholics in the entertainment industry. Their purpose is to promote and applaud individuals, films and TV programs that uplift the spirit and help us better understand what it is to be part of the human family.       

              Oscar-winning actor Louis Gossett, Jr. will receive the CIMA Lifetime Achievement Award for his personal and professional achievements which span a half-century. The recipient of an Academy Award, Golden Globe Award and NAACP Image Award for his role as Gunnery Sergeant Emil Foley in the 1982 film “An Officer and a Gentleman,” Gossett’s career encompasses motion pictures, television and the Broadway stage, where he made his debut in 1961 in “A Raisin in the Sun.” Memorable television appearances include starring roles in the epic mini-series “Roots” and “Sadat.” Other film roles include the “Iron Eagle” series, “Travels with My Aunt,” “Toy Soldiers” and “The Deep,” among many others.

         In 2006, Gossett founded the non-profit Eracism Foundation” whose mission is  the eradication all forms of racism by providing programs that foster cultural diversity, historical enrichment, education and anti-violence initiatives.  Gossett remarks: “This is a gratifying moment for me and I am humbled by this award.  I believe the gift of acting is from God, my oath to God, and I want to make sure, on a daily basis that it is honed and deeply spiritual. I want to believe that the audience believes my acting comes from this special place.”                                                                                        

      Past CIMA Lifetime Achiement Award recipients include Gregory Peck, Martin Sheen,  Rosemary Clooney, Jane Wyatt, Ricardo Montalban, Dick Van Dyke, Carroll O’Connor and Lew Wasserman, among many others.

The CIMA Film Award will be bestowed on “Doubt,” written and directed by Academy Award and WGA Award-winning screenwriter John Patrick Shanley (“Moonstruck”), adapted from the author’s 2005 Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award-winning Broadway play. Nominated for five Academy Awards and Golden Globe Awards, including “Best Screenplay,” “Doubt” is set in 1964 at a Bronx, New York Catholic elementary school and concerns the confrontation between a progressive priest (Philip Seymour Hoffman) and a strong-minded principal (SAG Award-winner Meryl Streep) over the priest’s excessive interest in the school’s first African-American student. “Doubt” also stars Oscar, Golden Globe and SAG nominees Amy Adams and Viola Davis.  Shanley notes:  I have been fortunate in the uniformly positive reactions I have received from the Catholic community to ‘Doubt’ and I am gratified beyond words. American Catholicism has shown itself to be generous and robust in its embrace of new ways of looking at the Catholic experience.”  

             Past CIMA Award feature films include “The Valley of Elah,” “Narnia,” “Hotel Rwanda,” “The Passion of the Christ,” “Seabiscuit,” “Dead Man Walking,” “Schindler’s List” and “Saving Private Ryan,” among many others.

             The 2009 CIMA Television Award will be presented to the CBS / Warner Bros Television / Jerry Bruckheimer Productions dramatic series “Without A Trace.”  Created in 2002 by Hank Gardner and produced by Jerry Bruckheimer, “Without A Trace” concerns a fictitious FBI missing persons unit. Each episode focuses on the search for one individual along with an examination of the personal lives of the team members and their insight — and sometime traumatic reactions — to certain cases.

          “Without A Trace,” which stars Anthony LaPaglia, Marianne Jean-Baptiste, Poppy Montgomery, Enrique Murciano, Eric Close and Roselyn Sanchez, also displays information about real-life missing persons and public service announcements at the end of many episodes. “Without A Trace” Executive Producers Greg Walker and Jan Nash comment: “If we had been nominated for an Emmy, we wouldn’t have been as proud as receiving this news. We have always operated from the premise of our characters looking to find the spiritual center of each episode.  The series is a terrific vehicle to interject spiritual questions into people’s daily life and work.”

            Past CIMA Television Award recipients include “Ugly Betty,” “Cold Case,” “Medium,” “Joan of Arcadia,” “The West Wing,” Judging Amy,” “Homicide – Life on the Streets,” “The Practice” and “Mr. Rogers Neighborhood,” among many others.

           2009 CIMA Award Master of Ceremonies Mark Derwin stars as “George Nicholson on ABC Family’s “Secret Life of An American Teenager.”  Familiar to primetime, television audiences for his recent roles on “Chuck,” “How I Met Your Mother,” “Boston Legal,” “Curb Your Enthusiasm,”  “Without A Trace,” “Navy NCIS” and “CSI,” Derwin also starred on daytime television’s “The Young and The Restless,” “One Life To Live” and “Guiding Light.”    

 Tickets to the 2009 CIMA Awards can be purchase online at  Catholics in Media Awards or by calling 818.907.2734.                       

    


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Doubt the Movie

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It is December, 1964. At St Nicholas Parish in the Bronx, Fr. Brendan Flynn (Philip Seymour Hoffman) celebrates Mass. He is preaching about “doubt” and  Sister Aloysius (Meryl Streep), the mother superior of the Sisters of Charity and principal of the school is in the congregation. She is not pleased with Fr. Flynn’s sermon. 

Sister James (Amy Adams) is a young sister in her first year of teaching. One of her students, Donald Miller (Joseph Foster)  is the only African-American student in the school. Fr. Flynn takes an interest in him. Donald is also an altar boy.

One day, Fr. Flynn calls Donald to the rectory. The boy acts strangely when he returns to class and Sr. James reports this to Sr. Aloysius. “And so it begins,” she says. She puts Fr. Flynn on notice that she is going to expose him. He is shocked at her insinuation that he has molested the boy. He demands evidence, but all she has is her “certainty.”

Sr. James is a young, inexperienced religious caught in the middle of a vortex: between Sr. Aloysius claims to certainty, the child, seeing Fr. Flynn sneak a piece of clothing into Donald’s locker, and her own insecurity and lack of life and faith experience. 

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Meryl Streep as Sister Aloysius in DOUBT

Sr. Aloysius tries to speak with Donald’s mother (Viola Davis). She wants her son to stay at St. Nicholas until the end of the year so he will be safe from public school bullies; she admits to being abused by her husband. She also demands proof.

I went to a screening of Doubt a few weeks ago. Afterwards, the writer/director John Patrick Shanley (Moonstruck), Meryl Streep, Hoffman, Adams and Viola Davis came onstage and spoke about the film.

The acting in the film is superb; Shanley, Streep, Hoffman, Adams, and Davis, will all attract award notice

Shanley spoke about “doubt”  in broad terms; the certainty of the faith of his childhood,  and the place of doubt in human experience. He alluded to the certainty of these past several years in the U.S. (I took it to be a political reference; my companion at the screening disagreed; I was happy to read in Shanley’s introduction to the play that was just published, that he meant certainty in all aspects of life) and that doubt and the questions it prompts, can be a sign, the beginning, of wisdom.

Shanley, who adapted his play for the screen, has given us a parable rooted in the recent clergy abuse scandal that broke in 2002.  The film is definitely a statement against pedophilia. He also references domestic abuse and the unspeakable lengths that people go to so they can survive.

In the film Doubt no evidence is ever offered that would condemn Fr. Flynn, though his responses read like a checklist of the behavior of a pedophile (giving gifts, special attention to a child, isolating the child, and that piece of clothing…, etc.) No one even asks the child if something happened, though Fr. Flynn gives a plausible, but not necessarily ironclad, explanation. Is his confusion real? Is he guilty? Only you can decide, and maybe not even then.

The Sister James character, Shanley told the audience, is based on his own 1st grade teacher –  Sister Margaret McEntee, SC. Early on when Doubt was on the stage,  he was surprised to learn was still living.  The film is dedicated to her (as is the published version of the play) and he hired her to be a consultant to the film. I think she has done a wonderful job of presenting religious life just as Vatican II was ending. I entered my community in 1967, and everything in the film about convent life, from the small kindnesses to the hubris, is credible. After all, religious life is a microcosm of humanity, women struggling to be who we say we are: disciples of Jesus.

Is Fr. Flynn guilty? He could be; but he might not be. Perhaps he is just imprudent or dumb. Sr. Aloysius’ decision to go contrary to God to find the truth, as she explains to Sr. James, is morally troubling.  

Sr. Aloysius accuses Sr. James as wanting the security of simplicity again, like she had before this episode; yet I think Sr. Aloysius is speaking to herself, and to everyone who has ever doubted.

The atmosphere of the film is cold and stark: December in a frozen, urban landscape is bleak. The emotional, rational, spiritual state of doubt can be chilly: a dark night of the soul, the revelation or realization of doubt, that makes us take action and ask questions, that challenges the comfort of our certainty, is a cold, and at times, lonely journey.

As the writings of St. John of the Cross, St. Therese of the Child Jesus, and Mother Teresa attest, doubt happens, and however painful, can be a source of honesty and ultimately, spiritual growth.

Shanley uses the suspicion of very real clerical pedophilia as a way to explore the certainty of faith. As such, Doubt is a powerful film that will evoke questions and, hopefully, launch a thousand conversations about things that matter.

 

Please see www.usccb.org for the review of the USCCB’s Office for Film and Broadcast.

For a copy of the Pultizer Prize for Drama play, go to: http://www.amazon.com/Doubt-movie-tie-Patrick-Shanley/dp/1559363479/ref=pd_bbs_sr_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1229034376&sr=8-1

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 The following is the SIGNIS STATEMENT about the film Doubt, written by Rev. Peter Malone, MSH, who heads the film desk for SIGNIS. SIGNIS is the Vatican-approved international Catholic organization for communication: www.signis.net

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SIGNIS STATEMENT

 

2nd December 2008

 

THE CHURCH IN TRANSITION:  DOUBT

 

 

Doubt is a film of strong Catholic interest. 

 

It can be viewed in the light of the current Church experience of sexual abuse by clergy.  However, this is not the central issue of the film.  Doubt is a film about Church structures, hierarchy, the exercise of power and the primacy of discipline and order.

 

Set in the autumn of 1964 in the Bronx, New York, the film focuses on the suspicions of the primary school principal, Sister Aloysius, that the local priest and chaplain to the school, Fr Flynn, is taking an unhealthy interest in one of the students, aged twelve.  There are some suggestions, several ambiguous clues, about what might have happened but the actual events remain unclear as the priest defends himself against the nun’ strong intuition against him and the nun discusses the problem with the boy’s mother.  As the title of the film indicates, the drama leaves the truth unclear because it is the stances of the two characters in conflict, especially the determined nun and the truth struggle, the power struggle, the conscience struggle, that is the point of the film.

 

John Patrick Shanley (Oscar for the screenplay for Moonstruck and a prolific playwright) has adapted and opened out  his Pulitzer-prize winning play for the screen and directed it himself.  Shanley has indicated that he is not so much concerned with the issue of clerical abuse of children as of pitting two characters against each other to highlight the uncertainties of certainty and the nature of doubt.  The drama is all the more powerful because of its naturalistic atmosphere, recreating the period and the life of the school, the convent and the rectory, and because of the powerful performances by Meryl Streep as Sister Aloysius and Philip Seymour Hoffman as Fr Flynn.  Amy Adams gives contrasting support as the gentle and somewhat naïve Sister James who teaches the children. Viola Davis is the mother of the boy.

 

It can be noted that the nun on whom the film’s Sister James was based and who taught Shanley at school in the Bronx has acted as a technical adviser.  The film, by contrast with so many others, represents the details of Church and liturgical life accurately – although there is a breviary in English, which was not the case in 1964, the children sing the Taize Ubi Caritas at Mass although it was composed later and Sister James is allowed to go to visit her sick brother which most nuns were not permitted to do at that time.  However, the film has a Catholic atmosphere which, while it might baffle audiences who were not there at the time, will ring true and bring back many memories to Catholics who lived through this strict period.

 

As with most organisations by the beginning of the 1960s, secular or religious, the Catholic Church was hierarchically structured.  Everyone knew their place, whether they liked it or not.  A pervading Gospel spirit of charity and service pervaded the Church but it was often exercised in a way that seemed harsh and demanding, especially by those who saw their authority being backed by a ‘grace of state’.  Many of those who left the Church in this era give anecdotes of the treatment they received from priests and nuns as reasons for their departure, even of their loss of faith.   When John XXIII called the Second Vatican Council in January 1959 and it opened on October 11th 1962, in his phrase, windows were opened, and change began to sweep through the Church.  This coincided with the changes, especially in Western society during the 1960s and the widespread protests symbolised by the Vietnam War and the hippy movement.  In fact, this was also the decade of enormous changes in Africa and the moves for independence.  Independence was a key word of the 1960s.

 

This is the theme that Doubt takes up. 

 

Sister Aloysius

 

Sister Aloysius, who, we learn, is a widow, is a strong-minded superior of the strict, intervening school of religious life.   She sees herself as an authority figure and what she says goes.  This was the spirituality of God’s will spoken through the Superior – though, in retrospect, this often seems more the whim of the superior.  She believes in discipline and she does not expect to be liked.  She trusts her intuitions and assumes that they are correct.  She does show some consideration to the health and mental states of the older sisters and has moments of kindness to Sister James but, the kind of Church and religious life she has inherited mean that she is constantly on the alert, wants proper order everywhere and sees herself in the chain of hierarchical authority that goes up via parish priest, bishop, to Rome and to the Holy Father.

 

Shanley is giving us an image of this kind of nun and her ethos and religious motivations.  At its best and worst this can be seen in Fred Zinneman’s The Nun’s Story (filmed in 1958 while Pius XII was still alive and the assumption was that this is how religious life would be forever) but released in 1959 after John XXIII had called the Council which asked for renewal in all religious orders.  Sister Aloysius is experiencing the first signs of a more transparent church, a church where a more adult obedience and discernment would replace any blind obedience and any childish exercise of power. A year after the story of Doubt, the Council would issue its Constitution on the Church which would respect hierarchy but interpret the life of the Church as that of the People of God, with the principles of subsidiarity and shared responsibility.

 

Fr Flynn

 

This kind of Church is what Fr Flynn is foreshadowing in the film.  It is not as if there were not friendly priests – Fr Bing Crosby received frowns from Fr Barry Fitzgerald in the 1944 Oscar-winner, Going My Way, for being too open and relaxed – and got into some trouble with the school principal, Ingrid Bergman, in The Bells of St Mary’s, both films being interesting companion pieces to Doubt.

 

At the opening of the film, Fr Flynn gives a sermon on experiencing doubts.  This cuts no ice with Sister Aloysius.  Fr Flynn is already on her hit list because of his friendliness towards the children in the school.  He coaches basketball.  He talks with the children and affirms them.  This kind of pastoral outreach was about to be encouraged by the Council’s document on priesthood.

 

The film also offers a contrast between the silent, rather ascetical meals in the convent with the jovial conversation and joking at the priests’ parish table.

 

Certainties and doubts

 

The confrontations between Sister Aloysius and Fr Flynn become quite desperate for Fr Flynn when he realises that the nun is so certain and dominating and has taken investigations into her own hands rather than respecting him as a person let alone a priest. We see the conflict between the old authoritarian style and the new, more personable style of interactions.  While Shanley himself states that he has some sympathy for the old ways, rituals, silence and devotion, his drama clearly shows the inadequacy of the authoritarian hierarchical model of Church in dealing with human relationships.  Something had to change.  And it did.

 

The sisters in the film are the Sisters of Charity founded in the 19th century by Elizabeth Bayley Seton,canonised a saint in 1975, and they are still wearing her dress/habit and bonnet.  Within the decade, that would change, sisters wearing a less formal habit or ordinary clothes with an emblem indicating their religious order.  Community life would be less rigid as would the relationships between the sisters.  There would be different relationships between the parish clergy and the sisters would worked in the parish.

 

Doubt offers an opportunity to look at the two models of Church and to assess their strengths and weaknesses, especially in the light of subsequent events and the nature and life of the Church at the present day.

 

The film wants to create doubts in the minds and emotions of the audience by contrasting the two styles of pastoral outreach, Sister Aloysius as stern, Fr Flynn as amiable.  As regards the doubts about Fr Flynn’s behaviour, contrasting clues are offered: Fr Flynn’s manner and friendliness with the boys, his singling out Donald for attention, Donald’s drinking the altar wine in the sacristy and Sister Aloysius’ conclusion that Fr Flynn had given it to him, Fr Flynn’s calling Donald out of class to the rectory and Sister James’ wariness about this.  On the other hand, Fr Flynn has explanations of Donald being the only African American boy in the school and the antipathy and bullying he received and wanting him to remain as an altar boy despite the offence which required his being dismissed as a server, his drinking the wine because of his father’s beating him because he suspected his homosexual orientation.  This is complicated by the conversation between Sister Aloysius and Donald’s mother whose sole concern, irrespective of what Fr Flynn might have done or not done and her husband’s violent treatment of Donald, is that Donald remain in the school for the next sixth months so that he will graduate and have the opportunity to go to a good high school.

 

Shanley’s images of Sister Aloysius at the end indicates that he believes we should all have doubts and not take the moral high ground of untested certainties.

 

[There are several films that take up this transition in the Church in the aftermath of the Second Vatican Council.  At the time, there were some films about nuns handling the changes: The Trouble With Angels, Where Angels Go… Trouble Follows and Change of Habit.  The small-budget film, Impure Thoughts (1981) has some very funny scenes of reminiscences about sisters and prriests in a parish school of 1961; Heaven Help us (1985)is set in a Franciscan boy’s high school in 1965.  This was the year Paul VI went to New York and addressed the United Nations – an event which is part of the background of Polanski’s film of Rosemary’s Baby.  For a stronger focus on the changes for nuns at the time, the Australian mini-series, Brides of Christ, is probably the best.  A telemovie, starring Kate Mulgrew as Mother Seton,  about the founding of the Sisters of Charity is A Time for Miracles (1980).]